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Why does physical activity protect mental health?
Researchers have now found that exercising regularly three to five times a week can help improve mental health. However, too much exercise can also be harmful.
In their current study, scientists from the internationally recognized Yale University found that regular sport training can improve mental health. The doctors published the results of their study in the English-language journal "The Lancet Psychiatry".
What are the best mental health exercises?
When study participants regularly exercised, they experienced fewer negative days per month, the researchers report. Training sessions of 45 minutes three to five times a week are most effective for maintaining mental health. Team sports, cycling, aerobics and visiting gyms proved to be the best forms of exercise to improve mental health. But activities such as housework or mowing the lawn can also be advantageous, the experts explain. However, the scientists also found that too much exercise for mental health could be worse than no exercise at all.
Movement protects against psychological stress
Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses worldwide, and there is an urgent need to find ways to improve the mental health of the population, study author Dr. Adam Chekroud from Yale University. Movement is associated with a lower psychological burden, which is independent of age, race, gender, household income and level of education. The results of the study are now used to personalize training recommendations and align people with a specific training regime that improves their mental health.
What does athletic training bring?
For their investigation, the researchers analyzed the data of 1.2 million adults from the United States who had taken part in surveys on their physical and mental health. On average, people who did no physical activity experienced 3.4 days a month when they rated their mental health as not good. When people exercised, those bad days were reduced to two a month, the doctors say. In participants who were previously diagnosed with depression, regular exercise and exercise led to 3.75 fewer days of perceived poor mental health. However, the researchers warned that more than three hours of physical activity a day could be worse than no exercise at all.
Too much sport harms the psyche
It used to be assumed that the more physical activity a person performs, the better their mental health. But the results of the new study show that this isn't really the case, says Dr. Chekroud. Exercising more than 23 times a month or exercising for more than 90 minutes at a time is associated with poorer mental health, the expert continues. The current study is the largest of its kind to date, but it cannot clearly confirm that exercise is the cause of improved mental health. Especially since previous studies on the effects of physical exercise on mental health had shown conflicting results. For example, some studies indicated that inactivity can lead to poor mental health, while others made the lack of exercise appear more as a symptom or consequence of the psychological problems, the doctors explain. (as)